NFL Draft Daily: How an injury helped Aidan Hutchinson make nearly $30 million

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 351 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

Aidan Hutchinson’s 2020 season had barely gotten started when it abruptly ended. The junior outside linebacker suffered a broken ankle against Indiana that required surgery. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Ten did not start its season until October after initially canceling it altogether. In the end, Hutchinson had appeared in just three games, recorded nine tackles, no sacks and no tackles for loss. For a player hoping to make the NFL leap, there was not much positive momentum.

Still, there was some draft buzz surrounding Hutchinson. If memory serves, he was projected to go somewhere in the mid-to-late second round. Perhaps if he hadn’t hurt his ankle, he would’ve finished a bit stronger. A chance to test at the combine could have secured himself in that middle part of the second round. Even with the injury, Jim Nagy thought he would have been a Day 2 pick in June of 2021.

At this point, we all know what happened instead. Hutchinson underwent surgery on his leg, returned to school and finished as the runner up for the Heisman as Michigan made its first ever appearance in the College Football Playoff. He posted 14 sacks, 16 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles. He wound up being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft and will suit up for his hometown team this season.

We’ve seen it happen so many times before where a player is on the cusp of reaching the league, but an injury sends them back to school and their draft stock drops significantly. Hutchinson clearly bucked that trend, and that was not lost on him.

“I did have an opportunity to leave my junior year,” Hutchinson said in an interview with ESPN Radio’s Spain & Fitz. “That injury was the greatest blessing that happened to me in my life.”

It turned out that the injury ended up making Hutchinson about $30 million dollars. That’s right, the injury made him money, not lost him. It’s hard to know exactly where he would have been selected in 2021 had he come out, but make some assumptions and take a look at the finances.

Hutchinson helped lead Michigan to its first College Football Playoff appearance. (Wikimedia Commons)

If we assume that Nagy was right with his projected draft range, which he often is, Hutchinson could have come off the board instead of Dayo Odeyingbo in the second round. The Colts took the Vanderbilt defensive end coming off a torn Achilles, so I can’t imagine that a broken ankle alone would have prevented the front office from taking Hutchinson.

Odeyingbo signed a four-year deal worth roughly $6.17 million. According to Spotrac, about $2.8 million of that was guaranteed. Under the assumption above, that’s approximately what Hutchinson was in line for as far as contract compensation goes had he come out in 2021.

Instead, Hutchinson’s stellar senior season propelled him to the second pick in the draft and he cashed in. Hutchinson signed his rookie deal with the Lions on Monday for $35.7 million, including a $23.1 million signing bonus. By the way, that deal is fully guaranteed. That’s a difference of $29.5 million. He will be paid $23.8 million in cash this year, which is the second most in the entire league among defensive ends, second only to Travon Walker, who went No. 1 overall. Danielle Hunter is third at $19.7 million. Odeyingbo ranked 53rd among defensive ends last year. He ranks 106th this year.

That’s a staggering difference. And that’s just a rough estimate of the difference because Hutchinson could have slid even further if he was unable to participate fully in the pre draft process, including the combine and his pro day. Maybe teams would have knocked him for a lack of production. He only had 4.5 sacks during his 2019 season and didn’t record one in 2020 before he got injured.

It was a miraculous year for Hutchinson and I have no doubt his talent would have eventually won out. That being said, this is a truly unusual situation and it is nice to see an injury lead to something positive for once. Way too often, we see injuries derail careers. Hopefully, we will get more stories like Hutchinson’s in the future.

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NFL Draft Daily: Comparing my Way-Too-Early 2022 Mock Draft to the actual NFL Draft

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 353 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

It’s that time of year where we start the very early look at next year’s draft class. We get caught up in the appeal and excitement of what could be. I’m guilty of it. I just published my Way-Too-Early 2023 Mock Draft this past Monday.

However, I wanted to do something a little different. I want to compare my Way-Too-Early mock from last year to the actual draft. I think it is really interesting to compare expectations for teams and players to what actually happened in the past year. Hopefully, there are a few lessons I can learn in the process as well that will help me better identify prospects that are true first-round players.

There are some major takeaways here for sure. One, I thought this quarterback class was going to be good a year ago. Meanwhile, Travon Walker was not even on my radar. Good reminder to everyone that so much can change over the next year as we start to look ahead to 2023.

As a reminder, I did not set the draft order last year. It was the reverse Super Bowl odds at the time from William Hill with strength of schedule used as a tiebreaker. You can check out the mock for reference, but I listed all of the projected picks here as well. Let’s go back in time and take a look at how I did with my projections.

1. Way-too-early prediction: Houston Texans – Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Transferred to South Carolina
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Ah yes. May 2021. Back when we thought this was going to be a good quarterback class. Rattler was a Heisman candidate at Oklahoma and seemed poised to become the latest quarterback under Lincoln Riley to go No. 1 overall. Instead, he lost his job midseason to Caleb Williams and ultimately transferred to USC. I did not include him in my way-too-early mock for 2023, so he definitely has a ways to go to rebuild his draft stock. As for the Texans, they ended up picking just a couple spots later, but seem to have their quarterback to develop in Davis Mills.

2. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions – Sam Howell, QB, UNC
What happened to the player: Drafted 144th overall by the Commanders
Actual Selection: Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
This didn’t pan out too well either. Howell entered the year as one of the top quarterback prospects, but uneven play and a drop in production without his top weapons caused him to tumble all the way to the fifth round. I still think he fell further than he should have, but there is no question he is a bit of a project. That being said, as I talked about on my podcast last week, I think Howell could wind up being the Commanders starter in 2023. Turns out that William Hill was spot on with their odds. Detroit did in fact pick second and they still need a quarterback. It will be a big focus in the 2023 draft for the Lions.

3. Way-too-early prediction: Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
What happened to the player: Drafted 3rd overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Hang on, I’m going to play the lottery real quick. I can’t pat myself on the back too much, but Stingley entered the year as likely the No. 1 overall prospect. At worst, he was No. 2 behind Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was an elite prospect, but injury struggles seemed to be pushing him down draft boards. A fantastic pro day somehow rebuilt his draft stock to the point where he went back to being a top-five pick. The fact that the Bengals were slated to take him third overall is laughable now. Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl behind stellar seasons from Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and an underrated defense. Cincy could still use some corner help, but obviously was nowhere close to being able to snag Stingley.

4. Way too-early prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 7th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Another one that I feel pretty good about, Neal wound up going just a few spots later to the Giants on draft day. I still maintain that the Jaguars would have done well to take Neal and move on from Cam Robinson, but I digress. Neal delivered on the hype in his 2021 season, making the move to left tackle look fairly easy. As it turns out, Jacksonville was even worse than this, with the Urban Meyer experiment failing miserably. Now we will have to wait and see if the Jags can avoid becoming the first team to ever draft No. 1 overall three years in a row.

5. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
What happened to the player: Drafted 5th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Right city, right draft slot, just wrong team on this one. The Jets ended up picking one selection earlier, in the end passing on Thibodeaux in favor of Ahmad Gardner. The Giants seem pretty happy with that. Thibodeaux came into the year as one of the best prospects in the draft. In fact, he was the top player at that point. He didn’t quite live up to the expectation, but he put together more than enough good tape to justify going in the top five.

6. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants – Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
What happened to the player: Transferred to Pittsburgh
Actual selection: Carolina Panthers – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
To quote myself from 2021: “If the Giants are picking this high, Daniel Jones’ days in New York are likely numbered.” Well after the team declined his fifth-year option, it sure seems like that is the case. However, the Giants opted not to take a quarterback in this class. Slovis wasn’t available anyway, because he didn’t enter the draft. This is a good reminder to not always bet that a player that flashed as a freshman will be able to sustain that. Slovis has come nowhere close to matching his 2019 production. He threw 30 touchdowns that year. He threw 28 in the next two combined. His completion percentage has also dropped each of the past two seasons. He can still turn things around, especially moving to a Pittsburgh program that just lost Kenny Pickett, but he has an uphill climb.

7. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What happened to the player: Drafted 23rd overall by the Bills
Actual selection: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Give the Eagles some credit for way outperforming this projected draft slot. Philly was one of the surprises of the season as Jalen Hurts and company ended up reaching the playoffs. As it turned out, the Eagles ended up passing on Elam twice in the first round, before he finally landed with Buffalo. I think Elam was a bit overhyped in the offseason, but he was clearly still talented enough to go in the first round.

8. Way-too-early prediction: Las Vegas Raiders – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 84th overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Atlanta Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
Reviewing this is I think a microcosm for Texas A&M this past year: they were good, but not as great as we expected. Leal fits that description. He had a solid season, but fell well short of the expectations I had for him entering the year. He ended up going in the third round to the Steelers, which feels like a really good spot for him to develop. Meanwhile, the Raiders, much like the Eagles, shocked everyone by making the playoffs. I still don’t really know how, given how much of a mess the organization was all season.

9. Way-too-early prediction: Carolina Panthers – Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
As it turns out, I had the Panthers targeting the right position here, just the wrong player. Oh and they ended up picking even earlier than this. Zion Nelson’s draft hype never really materialized in high level play. He was forced into the starting lineup as a freshman in 2019 and struggled mightily. He has improved since then, but I am excited to see what Mario Cristobal and his staff can do to aid his development. He definitely made the right call in returning to school.

10. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 75th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I remember watching Christian Harris in 2020 and thinking “that guy plays linebacker?” He was built like an early 2000s safety, flying around the field and making plays. Unfortunately, flying around the field is what he does best. Harris struggles reading his keys and positioning himself to make players. He is athletic enough to compensate for that sometimes, but it hinders his game. I had him as a late-second-round prospect by draft day, but he slid into the third. As for the Bears, they wasted most of Justin Fields’ rookie season and might end up wasting his second year as well if they cannot put more talent around him.

11. Way-too-early prediction: Atlanta Falcons – Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Washington Commanders – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
This was an example of assuming that Ohio State’s next five-star edge rusher up was going to continue on the trend of dominating when it was their turn. Nick Bosa did it in 2018. Chase Young did it in 2019. Harrison didn’t quite match those guys. He only posted two sacks in his junior season, showing a lack of true pass rushing polish that his predecessors had. He will have a chance to rewrite the scouting report on him during his senior season, but he will need to step up big time if he hopes to crack the first round. This ended up being pretty close to where the Falcons picked as well and they could still use edge rushing help, along with a lot of other things.

12. Way-too-early prediction: Washington Commanders – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
What happened to the player: Drafted 74th overall by the Falcons
Actual selection: Detroit Lions via Minnesota Vikings – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Desmond Ridder had some late first-round hype around him heading into the 2021 draft, but decided to return to school. It didn’t quite workout as he would’ve wanted. It wasn’t that Ridder didn’t play well, it’s that NFL teams had a chance to really pick apart his game. He was not accurate enough to warrant going in the first round. He is a bit of a project at this stage, but there is still plenty to like about his game. One pick off for Washington’s original draft slot is pretty impressive by the folks at William Hill. Trading for Carson Wentz meant they didn’t have to get overly aggressive in drafting a quarterback. They wound up taking Sam Howell on Day 3 as well to give them a player to develop.

13. Way-too-early prediction: Minnesota Vikings – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
What happened to the player: Drafted 14th overall by the Ravens
Actual selection: Philadelphia Eagles via Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
I ended up being just one pick off from where Hamilton was ultimately drafted. The Notre Dame safety slid to the Ravens after not running well at the combine. I was probably a bit lower on him than most in the early stages last season just because I am skeptical of taking safeties too high. Still it was a bit of a surprise to see him fall to the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Vikings were also just one slot off from their original selection before trading out with the Lions.

14. Way-too-early prediction: Arizona Cardinals – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
What happened to the player: Drafted 61st overall by the 49ers
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Arizona still struggled down the stretch, but got over the hump and made it to the postseason. The Cardinals got bounced in the first round, but it was progress. On the other hand Jackson entered the year with the expectation that he would take the next step in his development during a full season. He posted 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a freshman, but never quite matched those numbers again. He projects well as a situational rusher for the 49ers.

15. Way-too-early prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
What happened to the player: Drafted 9th overall by the Seahawks
Actual selection: Houston Texans via Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
I ended up being six spots off where Cross ended up being selected. I think this would’ve been better value for him, as I didn’t quite have him in my top 10. Still, Cross ended up being one of the most experienced pass blockers to ever come out of the college ranks. He still has some fine-tuning in that department and is a relative unknown as a run blocker, but he checks every box from a physical perspective. On the Steelers’ side of things, they probably could have used some reinforcements along the offensive line. They outperformed expectations and actually reached the postseason.

16. Way-too-early prediction: Los Angeles Chargers – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 11th overall by the Saints
Actual selection: Washington Commanders via New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Well a receiver did end up going with the 16th overall pick. I just chose the wrong Big Ten school. I also find it hard to believe that this is the first receiver I had projected to come off the board. Not because Olave was undeserving, but because this ended up being a really good receiver class. Anyway, Olave ended up going five picks earlier as the third receiver to be selected. I’m sure Chargers fans would have loved him, but they never got the chance.

17. Way-too-early prediction: Tennessee Titans – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 52nd overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
This one was undoubtedly all about projection. Pickens had just undergone ACL surgery when I wrote my way-too-early predictions for 2022. I assumed that his upside and physical attributes would be enough to keep him in the first round. Not quite as he went 35 selections later, so I guess I was about a round off on him. The Titans did end up drafting a receiver, but it was to replace A.J. Brown, not add around him like I had anticipated.

18. Way-too-early prediction: New England Patriots – Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles
Actual selection: Tennessee Titans via Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Woof this one was bad. Jobe was expected to be the next great Alabama corner, but he ended up going undrafted. It’s hard for me to understand exactly why he fell that far. He has measurables to play outside corner in the NFL, even if he did struggle a bit during his senior year. Not running at the combine makes me believe that there were some concerns about his speed and quickness. Still, most expected him to go in the fourth round. It was definitely a bit of a shock no one took a chance on him. Looking at the Patriots, they did need cornerback help and they still could probably use a bit more.

19. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 13th overall by the Eagles
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
I wish I could’ve bet on this one way back then. Not that I would have because why on Earth would I have ever believed I would get this right, but the odds for Jordan Davis being selected by the Eagles a year later likely would have been incredible, assuming any sportsbook would have been willing to give them to me. Philly traded up a couple spots on draft day to land him. He will be the long-term replacement for Fletcher Cox. The Eagles did originally own the 19th pick, but flipped it to the Saints as part of a pre draft trade. Meanwhile, the Dolphins, who were expected to make the playoffs this past year, struggled out of the gate and never fully recovered.

20. Way-too-early prediction: Dallas Cowboys – Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Transferred to LSU
Actual selection: Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
This was a swing and a miss. I actually heard from a bunch of Buckeye fans immediately after publishing last year that Sevyn Banks was being overhyped. Once I dove a little deeper into the film, I realized they were right. I got caught up in scouting the helmet, not the player on this one. I wasn’t alone. Banks was a popular inclusion in way-too-early mocks this time last year. He only played four games in 2021 and will now attempt to rebuild his draft stock at LSU. For the Cowboys, this was not too far off from where they ended up finishing even playing in the weakest division in the league.

21. Way-too-early prediction: New Orleans Saints – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 10th overall by the Jets
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs via New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
So the Saints did wind up selecting a first-round receiver from Ohio State. I just didn’t have them taking the right one. Not that Wilson was even on the board when New Orleans ultimately picked at No. 11. He put together a fantastic junior season and pushed himself into the top ten. Personally, I’m thrilled he landed with the Jets. As far as expectations for the Saints, this was not too far off. They came close to the playoffs despite dealing with major injuries across their roster.

22. Way-too-early prediction: Indianapolis Colts – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 238th overall by the Raiders
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
In retrospect, this pick should have belonged to the Eagles. I fully expected Carson Wentz to meet the requirements to convey the Colts’ first-round pick. Simply an oversight on my part. Let’s talk about Indy though, because it definitely needed a new left tackle. The Colts brought in Eric Fisher as a stop-gap solution, and more recently drafted Bernhard Raimann to compete for the starting spot. As it turns out, Munford was not a great choice to fill that void. He ended up kicking inside to play guard during his senior season and fell to the seventh round. His versatility is undervalued and I think he will stick around the league for a while.

23. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 15th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Buffalo Bills via Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What a fall for the Seahawks. Seattle suffered through a lost season with Russell Wilson missing time due to injury only to ultimately trade him to the Broncos. Their own first-round pick, which belonged to the Jets as part of the Jamal Adams trade, became the 10th selection. Let’s just say I’m not complaining as a Jets fan. New York could have used a player like Green, but it is hard to fault Joe Douglas for how he handled the draft. The offensive lineman from Texas A&M ended up being gone by this point anyway.

24. Way-too-early prediction: Denver Broncos – Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Drafted 108th overall by the Browns
Actual selection: Dallas Cowboys – Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
I was shocked by this in 2021 and I still can’t believe it now. William Hill had the Broncos at 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this time last year. That makes more sense with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but Drew Lock? Not really sure what happened there. Either way, Denver did need some help along the front seven and Winfrey seemed to be an ascending player. He actually did put together a much more impressive senior campaign with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks but ended up sliding all the way to the fourth round. He could wind up being a very productive player in Cleveland.

25. Way-too-early prediction: Cleveland Browns – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
What happened to the player: Drafted 2nd overall by the Lions
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Speaking of the Browns, this is where they were expected to pick after a sensational 2020 season. That fell apart quickly as Baker Mayfield got hurt and the team seemingly never recovered. Then there is Hutchinson, who ended up soaring up draft boards thanks to a phenomenal senior season. He finished as the runner up for the Heisman and will now get to play the role of hometown hero with the Lions.

26. Way-too-early prediction: Green Bay Packers – John Metchie, WR, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 44th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Tennessee Titans – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
I should really know better by now. The Packers don’t draft receivers in the first round! In their defense, I think that was the right call this year after six of them went in the top 18 picks. I wonder if John Metchie might have worked his way into the first round had he not torn his ACL in the SEC title game against Georgia. He became Bryce Young’s go-to receiver this past season, catching 96 passes for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. His speed is legitimate as well. The Texans might end up with a steal in the second round.

27. Way-too-early prediction: Baltimore Ravens – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee
What happened to the player: Drafted 199th overall by the Panthers
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Injuries derailed the Ravens season, which was actually my rationale for mocking them to take Mays before the year even happened. Keeping Lamar Jackson healthy will be priority number one for Baltimore and likely a large part of the thinking into drafting Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. Mays ended up sliding all the way to the sixth round. He is a former five star recruit with experience at just about every position on the offensive line. I was definitely a bit too high on him entering the year, but he should have gone earlier than the sixth round in my opinion.

28. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
What happened to the player: Drafted 18th overall by the Titans
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
There have been a few prospects that I projected to make the jump in 2021 that fell short of expectations. That was not the case with Burks. He took a huge step forward with over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns in a fantastic campaign. He was a bit inconsistent and posted some questionable times at the combine, but clearly the Titans felt like he was going to be a worthy replacement for A.J. Brown. Looking at who this pick originally belonged to, William Hill was pretty close with the Rams. Matt Stafford and Von Miller just pushed them over the top.

29. Way-too-early prediction: Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
What happened to the player: Drafted 27th overall by the Jaguars
Actual selection: New England Patriots via Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – Cole Stange, G, Chattanooga
Well William Hill was spot on for this one. This ended up being the 49ers pick, even if it did change hands several times before the selection was ever made. Lloyd was one of my favorite prospects heading into the 2022 draft cycle. That didn’t change at all and it turns out I just missed out on where he would go in the first round. I think there are big things to come from him in Jacksonville.

30. Way-too-early prediction: Buffalo Bills – Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
My second prediction that went horribly wrong. Wydermyer joins Josh Jobe among my first-round hopefuls that went undrafted. Wydermyer looked like the latest athlete to learn how to play tight end. His tape showed quickness and burst that made him seem like a player just scratching the surface of his potential. Then he actually went on to put up worse numbers in 2021 despite having two more games. He skipped running at the combine and then posted some horrible times at his pro day. I don’t exactly know what to make of him at this point, but this was a huge miss for me. Ironically, he did sign with the Bills.

31. Way-too-early prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
What happened to the player: Drafted 30th overall by the Chiefs
Actual selection: Cincinnati Bengals – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Another one where I was off by just one pick. Karlaftis enters the draft much like he entered his final college season, a developing player who has been unable to replicate his freshman year success. He managed to stay healthy in 2021, but his production did not bounce back all the way to his 2019 campaign. Still, he is an enticing prospect with his burst off the line and ability to disrupt plays. He needs to become a bit more disciplined in the run game, but there is clear upside. Tampa always loves grabbing edge rushers to develop. I think Karlaftis would have been a good fit there, but the Bucs traded out of the first round and he was gone by the time they were up again.

32. Way-too-early prediction: Kansas City Chiefs – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
What happened to the player: Drafted 42nd overall by the Vikings
Actual selection: Minnesota Vikings via Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
I still wonder if Booth had been healthy enough to run at the combine if he would have pushed his way into the first round. He had a strong career at Clemson and did not go much later than this when the draft actually rolled around. Minnesota will be hoping he can finally put an end to the revolving door they have had at cornerback. The Chiefs came up just short of a third straight trip to the Super Bowl, blowing a lead that prompted them to trade up for some cornerback help in Trent McDuffie.

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NFL Draft Daily: Undrafted free agents to keep an eye on in the pros

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 359 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on these undrafted players, but there are a few every year that go on to have a major impact at the NFL level. Some more notable ones in recent years include Phillip Lindsay, Tyler Huntley, Marquez Callaway, Rodrigo Blankenship, Jakobi Meyers and Deonte Harris to name a few.

Not all of these players will be starters. In fact, none of them are likely to be. However, I think these players could be in a good spot to make a roster and prove they belong in the NFL.

Tyshaun James, WR, Central Connecticut State
Atlanta is in desperate need of receivers and it might have found some help in James. He is big at 6’3″, which is something the Falcons will be able to make use of. His numbers fell off during his senior season, scoring just six touchdowns after accounting for 14 his junior year. Given that Atlanta lacks much in the way of proven talent at the position, I could see him making the roster.

Alec Lindstrom, C, Boston College
I’m a bit surprised that Lindstrom went undrafted. He had a fantastic career at Boston College. Starting for three seasons at center, he was All-ACC first-team in his junior and senior seasons while finishing as a finalist for the Rimington Award in 2021. He is unquestionably undersized, but that never seemed to be an issue in college. He actually tested average to above average in just about every drill at the combine as well. I think he has a future as a backup in the league. Dallas did well to pick him up.

Tyler Goodson, RB, Iowa
Another player that I was surprised to see go undrafted, Goodson lands in a good spot with Green Bay. He will certainly face an uphill climb to make the roster given that the Packers have Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon and Kylin Hill already. That being said, he is quick and has decent hands (31 receptions in 2021). If he can find a way to contribute on special teams, I think he has a shot to hang around as a change-of-pace back in the league.

Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
This one exclusively comes down to medicals. Four years ago, we all thought Ross was on track to be a surefire first-round pick. He was a big-body receiver snagging catches from Trevor Lawrence. He was the top target on a team that included Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers, reeling in 46 catches for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as a true freshman. That Clemson team went undefeated and won a title. He followed it up with another impressive campaign in 2019. Then, he underwent surgery on a congenital spinal fusion condition that cost him the 2020 season. He returned for a much more modest 2021 campaign. If Ross is truly healthy, he landed in the best spot possible with the Chiefs. I know Kansas City will likely rely less on the vertical passing game in 2022, but they’ve found a deep ball specialist in Ross.

Chase Garbers, QB, Cal
There was a time where I convinced myself that Chase Garbers could be a first-round quarterback. This was back in 2020, when Garbers debuted in my Way-Too-Early 2021 NFL Mock Draft. That assessment was definitely a bit off, but there are still some elements of his game that I really like. He is mobile and extends plays while keeping his eyes downfield. His completion percentage slowly crept up over the final three years of his career as well. In Las Vegas, he will be competing with Nick Mullens and Garrett Gilbert for a roster spot. I could see him spending a year on the practice squad before hopefully making the 53-man roster.

Cameron Dicker, K, Texas
It’s not a fun list unless we have a kicker on it! Matt Gay is the incumbent for the Rams, but Dicker will be interesting competition this offseason. Here’s what makes him interesting: he punts and kicks. He was first-team All-Big 12 as a punter this past season and an honorable mention as a kicker. If he hopes to make the roster, he will have to improve his accuracy, but he did hit from 57 in 2019, so the range is clearly there. I think he makes the practice squad because of that versatility to punt and kick.

Kellen Diesch, OT, Arizona State
Diesch is an incredible athlete who didn’t quite check every box from a measurables standpoint. At 6’7″, 301 pounds, he ran a 4.89 40 and posted an impressive 32.5-inch vertical. Unfortunately, he has below average length for an NFL tackle. Still, he started all 13 games for Arizona State this past season, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors. He is a bit of a project, desperately needing to fill out his massive frame, but the Dolphins will be willing to bet on his upside panning out, especially after having just four selections in the 2022 draft.

Smoke Monday, S, Auburn
The first man on the all-name team, Monday joins the Saints after a solid career at Auburn. He is a big-play threat, accounting for a defensive touchdown in each of his final three college seasons. Monday also has the requisite size and speed to play in the NFL, even if nothing he brings to the table is elite on paper. He is a hard-hitting safety who needs to be a bit more disciplined in his approach. New Orleans could use a bit more youth at the safety spot.

Brenden Schooler, S, Texas
This is a really interesting one. Schooler started his college career at Oregon, where he entered as a defensive back. After ten starts at safety as a true freshman, he switched to receiver. He admittedly did not do much as a receiver in college, accumulating 661 yards and six touchdowns over four seasons, including his 2020 season spent with Texas as a grad transfer. He returned to the Longhorns for his extra year of eligibility and moved back to defensive back. I don’t know that Schooler is destined for a long NFL career, but his path to the NFL is one of the most interesting ones I can think of. The Patriots will probably find a way to utilize his size (6’2″) and varied skill set.

Reggie Roberson Jr., WR, SMU
Another receiver who had his career disrupted by injuries, Roberson landed with the Titans after going undrafted. He was on his way to being a Day 2 prospect in 2019 (2020 draft), but suffered a season-ending foot injury. Then, he tore his ACL in 2020. His 2021 season was much more muted as he tried to regain his form. He is not supremely athletic, but he was productive in college and could be a solid No. 4 or No. 5 receiver in the NFL if he can stay healthy. The Titans need to find some depth at receiver they can rely on.

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Draft Season Never Ends: 2022 NFL Draft Reaction

New episodes dropping every Friday! The draft is finally here! With 262 picks all finalized and undrafted free agents signing, Chris breaks down his favorite and least favorite drafts and some of this favorite Day 2 and Day 3 picks in a special Monday episode.

You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, I appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button.

Way-Too-Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Four quarterbacks feature while Alabama, Clemson and Georgia dominate the first round

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 360 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

The 2022 draft is in the books, which means it is time to start wildly speculating about the 2023 draft class. Full disclosure, I have not done much film study on any of these players yet. I’ve watched maybe one game of each of them, if not just watched some highlights or saw them play during the 2021 season. Most of this will change dramatically in the coming months, but it is a fun introduction to the prospects that will make up the 2023 draft class.

With that in mind, I did not create the draft order. These odds are the latest from DraftKings and tiebreakers were determined by strength of schedule in 2022.

1. Houston Texans (200-1) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
I would like to formally apologize to Davis Mills. I believe the Texans will be better than this in 2022. But if Houston has the No. 1 pick, it will be tough to pass on Stroud. After a slow start to the 2021 season, Stroud found his groove with 44 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He has good size at 6’3″ and an NFL-level arm.

2. Atlanta Falcons (150-1) – Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Atlanta could pull the trigger on Bryce Young here, but instead, I think they will grab his Alabama teammate who should have won the Heisman in 2021. Anderson was nearly unstoppable this past season, posting 17.5 sacks. Had he been eligible, he would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. Positional value pushes him to the second spot here, but make no mistake, he enters the year as the No. 1 overall prospect.

3. New York Jets (150-1) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
I truly hope the Jets are not picking in the top five again. If they do, Carter would be an excellent target. After picking up Jermaine Johnson II in the 2022 draft, New York can round out their front four with Carter. He is supremely athletic and disruptive. He will be a major catalyst for Georgia’s defense this season.

4. Detroit Lions (150-1) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This is the best case scenario for the Lions as the 2021 Heisman winner falls into their laps. This would reunite him with one of his favorite targets in Jameson Williams. Young is a very polished player with a great arm and solid mobility. His biggest test will be continuing to perform without his top two targets, (Williams and John Metchie). We saw him struggle without them against Georgia in the National Championship Game.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (130-1) – Jackson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I don’t care that you just paid Christian Kirk a ridiculous amount of money. Smith-Njigba is a game-changing player with incredible ball skills. He dominated playing out of the slot for Ohio State and often looked like the best receiver on a team that just produced two first-round selections at the position. His monster game in the Rose Bowl points to what he could look like as the featured target for C.J. Stroud.

6. Seattle Seahawks (100-1) – Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami
Seattle chose to pass on the quarterback position in this draft class, opting instead to rebuild its offensive line and restock its defense. Now, the Seahawks can grab a quarterback to grow with. Van Dyke turned some heads this past season at Miami. He took over the starting job a couple games into the season and finished strong. This pick is about projection that he will take the next step in his development, notably, increasing his completion percentage.

7. Carolina Panthers (100-1) – Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
Carolina could go a couple directions here, including quarterback, but I think they will give Matt Corral another year to prove himself, especially with three quarterbacks off the board already. Instead, they go with the best player available in Smith. He flies around in that Georgia defense. We will get a chance to see him take on a much larger role with Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean now in the NFL.

8. Chicago Bears (100-1) – Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh
If Justin Fields is going to be successful, he is going to need weapons to work with. Chicago did grab Velus Jones Jr. in the third round, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking Addison here. One of the most productive players in college football a year ago and Kenny Pickett’s favorite target, there are rumors Addison could go link up with Caleb Williams at USC for his junior season.

9. New York Giants (100-1) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
If the Giants are picking in the top ten, I think this pick will be spent on a quarterback. New York ignored the position in the 2022 draft and declined Daniel Jones’ 5th-year option. Levis put together an impressive year at Kentucky. He will need to cut down interceptions, but he is a good athlete, shows good pocket presence and has a compact throwing motion. Plus, he plays in a pro-style offense.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (65-1) – Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Pittsburgh still needs help in the secondary after not drafting a single corner in the 2022 draft. Ricks enters the year as my top corner. He essentially spent the past two seasons as LSU’s No. 1 corner with Derek Stingley Jr. out. Now, he will join Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa before likely making the jump to the NFL.

Editor’s note: Eli Ricks was arrested Sunday evening for speeding and possession of marijuana.

11. Washington Commanders (65-1) – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Another SEC corner, Ringo will get a chance to show he can be the top option with Derion Kendrick now in the NFL. Ringo is big at 6’2″ and a good athlete. He showed his playmaking ability with a 79-yard pick-six of Bryce Young in the National Championship Game. For the Commanders, he would give them a No. 1 corner, especially with William Jackson looking like a potential cap casualty after the season.

12. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (50-1) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Sure, the Eagles still have Dallas Goedert, but after trading away Zach Ertz this past year, there is not much at the position other than Goedert. Bringing in Mayer allows the Eagles to go back to running two tight end sets and gives Jalen Hurts another weapon. Mayer is a very well-rounded prospect and seems in good position to be the first tight end drafted in 2023.

13. Minnesota Vikings (45-1) – Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Adam Theilen turns 32 this year and struggled with injuries in 2021. Minnesota might have other needs here, but grabbing another LSU receiver to pair with Justin Jefferson feels like a great investment. It seems even smarter when you look at the cost of keeping top-end receivers these days. Boutte had 509 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.

14. New England Patriots (40-1) – Malachi Moore, CB, Alabama
New England lost J.C. Jackson in free agency and has yet to take any meaningful steps to replace him. Malachi Moore had a good year, with three interceptions as he stepped into a bigger role for the Tide defense. He has good size and skills, but needs to show he can be a true No. 1 corner this season. It will help sharing a defensive backfield with Eli Ricks.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (35-1) – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Bresee is a former No. 1 recruit who has dazzled in the limited playtime he has gotten at Clemson. It is not because he is not talented enough either, he just missed the final nine games of the Tigers’ season due to injury in 2021. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant defensive players in college football. He would give the Raiders an incredibly talented front four, which they will need playing the AFC West.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (35-1) – Tony Grimes, CB, UNC
The Eagles had a good 2022 draft, but did not find any corners to reshape the secondary. Grimes is a tall corner with good coverage skills. He has good make up speed and uses his hands well to break up passes. He has room to grow, but he looks like an NFL corner.

17. Miami Dolphins (30-1) – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Bring back the first-round running backs! Robinson enters the year as a Heisman candidate after a strong sophomore campaign. He is thick at 6’0″, 214 pounds and perhaps most importantly, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has 41 catches across his first two college seasons. Miami desperately needs an upgrade in the backfield.

18. Tennessee Titans (28-1) – Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
This is a name that you should get to know. Mesidor flashed some real promise at West Virginia before transferring to Miami for the 2022 season. He has a sweet spin move and a high motor that makes him incredibly difficult to keep out of the backfield. Tennessee could add him to an already very talented defensive front.

19. Arizona Cardinals (25-1) – Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
The Cardinals revamped their offense with Hollywood Brown and Trey McBride. Now, they need to continue investing in their defense. Budda Baker is a great player, but Arizona could use another safety. Joseph has nine interceptions over the past two seasons and brings great size to the position. Now he will get a chance to showcase that talent at Notre Dame after three seasons with Northwestern.

20. Baltimore Ravens (22-1) – Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson needs some more weapons. The Ravens have a ton of depth at receiver, but not enough quality starting options. Mims could help change that. He is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic in space and catches the ball well away from his body. I like him as a replacement for Hollywood Brown with even more upside.

21. Indianapolis Colts (22-1) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Indianapolis quietly had a good draft, but I’m not so sure Bernhard Raimann is the surefire answer at left tackle. If he is, then this definitely won’t be a need in 2023. Until then, I believe the Colts need to invest in the offensive line. Johnson could be the best tackle from a slightly underwhelming class, at least at first glance.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (18-1) – Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Cincinnati struck gold with Chidobe Awuzie in free agency last year, but they still need some more help in the secondary. Phillips is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic. He flashed his playmaking potential in the Rose Bowl, forcing a fumble of Jackson Smith-Njigba and intercepting C.J. Stroud. He also showed that he has some work to do to solidify himself as a first-round player.

23. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (17-1) – Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson
Houston continues to go with the best player available. At this stage, that is Davis. He had a bit of an underwhelming season missing four games due to injury as well. If he can get healthy and return to the form he showed as a freshman (nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) then he will earn his spot in the first round.

24. Dallas Cowboys (17-1) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Another Clemson defender. Murphy took the next step in his development as a sophomore, posting eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has great size at 6’5″, 275 pounds. Dallas needs someone to play across from DeMarcus Lawrence.

25. Los Angeles Chargers (16-1) – Trenton Simpson, EDGE, Clemson
In case you weren’t aware, Clemson has a really good defense this year. Simpson is well built and incredibly versatile. He has an explosive first step off the line and a nose for the football. He is capable of dropping into coverage as well. Brandon Staley would love getting his hands on him.

26. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (16-1) – Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama
Bobby Wagner is gone and Seattle does not have a clear replacement on the roster right now. To’oTo’o was one of the best linebackers in college football this past year and made a bit of a surprising decision to return to school. He looked sharp in his first season with Alabama after transferring from Tennessee.

27. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (14-1) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Miami should continue to prioritize surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with talent. Skoronski has a big frame that he needs to continue to grow into. If Liam Eichenberg does not lock down the starting spot at right tackle, Skoronski could be his replacement.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (10-1) – Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas
Detroit entered the 2022 draft needing some safety help. Perhaps third-round pick Kerby Joseph will be able to fill the void. If not, then Catalon could be a logical choice here. He earned some first-round buzz this past season before deciding to return to school.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Kansas City added Skyy Moore in the second round, who is a speedy, slightly undersized receiver. However, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling likely won’t be around long. The Chiefs could also use a bit more size at receiver too, which is where Johnston comes in. He is 6’4″ and excels at making contested catches. He is a run after the catch threat as well with his relentless running style.

30. Green Bay Packers (10-1) – Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
Hopefully, Robert Tonyan will be back to full strength after missing most of 2021 due to injury. Either way, he is on a one-year deal and the Packers do not have much behind him in terms of tight end depth. Latu is a big-body target at 6’5″ and moves very well in space. He can be flexed out to give Aaron Rodgers, or whoever is quarterbacking Green Bay, another weapon to throw to.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-1) – Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
There are a number of directions I could see the Buccaneers going. So much is unknown about Tom Brady’s future. Let’s assume Tampa does not need to address the quarterback spot for right now. Lavonte David is essentially a free-agent after the year is over, so perhaps the Bucs would seek out his replacement, Sewell, brother of Lions tackle Penei Sewell, plays downhill and seeks out contact. He should be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

32. Buffalo Bills (13-2) – Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
Let’s squeeze another running back in here. If you are looking for an explosive, do-it-all playmaker, look no further. Achane is a bit undersized, but that only matters if you can catch him. He would give the Bills a really dynamic element in the run game and short passing game with his game-breaking speed.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.